The Gambling Square breaks down gambling behaviour into four perspectives that influence a person’s decision to gamble. These four perspectives are money, time, access and vulnerability. According to gambling expert Dr Phil Townsend, author of The Foundation for Counsellors, “planning to manage each perspective is essential for someone working to reduce or stop gambling behaviour.”
Your task is to think about what those four perspectives are and how they might influence your decision-making. What element of the Gambling Square is important for you to manage that would help you give up or control your gambling better?
If you decide to speak to a counsellor about your gambling you may find they discuss strategies based around the four elements of the Gambling Square. You can talk to a professional counsellor anytime by calling 1800 858 858, or you can chat online 24/7.
Money — the first element of the Gambling Square
Not surprisingly, the first element of the Gambling Square that a gambling counsellor is likely to want to discuss with you is your access to money and how you manage that money. Since you can’t gamble without money — either cash or credit — the availability of money important to your gambling behaviour.
At an early stage in your contact with a counsellor, they will want to discuss with you strategies to limit your exposure to money. But why wait until you see a counsellor to think about your access to money? There are many protective strategies you can put in place, including assistance available from the major banks.
The counsellor will also ask you to think about how you view money when you are not gambling and when you are gambling. When people are not gambling, money has importance. People are aware of its value in providing the minimum basics of a good life i.e. shelter, food, and clothing. However, the gaming industry converts money to “credits” or “chips” or “chits” (racing slips). This effectively and deliberately distances your money from your gambling activity so that, when gambling, you lose the sense that you are actually spending money.
Have a discussion with yourself or with the counsellor about when money becomes a trigger to your gambling. Is it when you have money, or is it when a bill comes in? What strategies can you think of that would limit your access to money?
Reflect on how you allow yourself to sabotage your intentions to limit both your access to money and gambling. “I’ll only put in $20,” is a common self-sabotaging thought. Is there one that you commonly use?
Time — the second element of the Gambling Square
A counsellor will want to explore with you when you are most likely to gamble and how the timing of your gambling relates to money. Think about timing and you may come to some conclusions and insights about how time and gambling relate.
Do you, for instance, gamble on payday — one of the more common times that people report gambling and losing all their pay?
Do you go online at lunchtime, visit a venue on the way home from work, or use your phone anytime of the day? Have COVID-19 restrictions changed the times or the way you are gambling?
If you have stopped gambling because of restricted access to pokies venues, it is still worthwhile thinking about when you gambled. If you have taken up online gambling because of the restrictions, note the times you are gambling and keep a record of them.
Thinking about and keeping a record of the times you gamble can make you aware of specific times as risk factors and help you to develop strategies that make you unavailable to gamble at your “high- risk” times. Schedule alternative activities or tasks and make sure you do not have access to money during high-risk times.
Access — the third element in the Gambling Square
Face-to-face counsellors and telephone and online counsellors say it is essential if you want to limit your gambling that you also limit your access to gambling opportunities. This can be particularly difficult to do given the extended opening hours of many venues and the important place clubs and hotels have in the social lives of many people. While advertising of pokies venues may be limited, advertising of online gambling does not face any restrictions and gambling advertising is prolific and hard to resist on all forms of media advertising.
Many people have been helped by the COVID-19 restrictions and report both to the counsellors and in many forum posts online that the limited access to pokies venues has reduced their gambling. Unfortunately, this has not been true for gambling online and many people report increased gambling on the apps on that casino in your pocket — your mobile phone.
While your gambling counsellor can help you decide how to limit your access, there are many strategies you can try yourself. For online gambling, you can put limits on your spend or the times you can gamble or exclude yourself totally for a period of time. You can put blocks on all your electronic devices (Gamban, Gamblock for example) which will limit advertising from any gambling site. The safety provided by these apps is small compared to the cost of gambling.
Australian registered gambling websites are the only ones that offer some forms of limiting your gambling. For club, hotel, and casino gambling you can choose to self-exclude for a period of time until you learn more about the how, why and when of your gambling. Many people swear by self-exclusion as the way in which their lives began to improve.
Information on limiting your access is readily available. If you want to find information about the limits you can apply on your favourite gambling app, searching the site using the terms “responsible gambling”, “self-exclusion” or “self- banning” will usually yield results.
Vulnerability — the fourth element in the Gambling Square
Dr Phil Townsend says that if “time, money, access and vulnerability occur together, gambling is likely to happen.” What does he mean by vulnerability? If you are vulnerable you are in a position where you are unable to defend yourself fully against a hostile environment. The cause of your vulnerability may be physical, economic, social or emotional. During this period of worry about COVID-19, your ability to manage your life may be more deeply affected both by your old issues and a whole new range of causes.
In less stressful times, your gambling may have been influenced by things you are aware of. Were you perhaps lonely and going to a club was the way you socialised, but you felt uncomfortable about being there and not gambling? Dealing with loneliness during COVID-19 may mean you have actually coped better — after all everyone is in the same boat — or you may be gambling differently.
Were you reacting to peer pressure from your “mates” when you bet more than you could afford? Were you unable to say “I’m out of this round. This is a bit too deep for me and costing me too much.” But now lacking even the company of mates, are you finding yourself gambling alone and spending too much? You are not alone in this change of gambling habit.
Are you out of work because of COVID-19 and worried about how to pay the bills and think that gambling is a way to make money? Let’s be clear here. Gambling may give you occasional wins — which you will remember — but over time you will be financially worse off for gambling.
Are you self-medicating for depression? Gambling will give you an adrenaline boost that will make you feel better for a time. Are you looking for this adrenaline boost during this time, as a way of managing your worries.
Take the time to think about your particular vulnerabilities and what you need to do to help you overcome them. Getting a clear picture of your gambling is the single most important step to overcoming that problem.
However, clear thinking and acting with or without the help from others and knowing that overcoming a gambling problem is not only possible but done regularly, may be all the impetus you need to get started on your journey to change your behaviour.
By identifying your risks and triggers, the Gambling Square can help you plan strategies to avoid gambling. Reaching out for support may be the help you need to develop a personalised, individual plan to reduce or stop your gambling. Chat to a professional counsellor online 24/7 or call 1800 858 858.
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